Before any momentous occasion in Laos, there is usually a traditional ceremony called “Baci” — and the day before I left Luang Prabang, some Lao students invited me to a Baci in order to bless their new microscope (and to wish me a safe journey home).
According to Lao custom, a Baci gathers and reintegrates the many vital forces which make up your soul. During the ceremony, a village elder chants to call those vital forces (called kwan) back to you. One after another, small white strings are tied around your wrist by everyone in the room. Each serves as a reminder that you are part of a greater community — but it’s also a person-to-person wish for your good luck and happiness.1
And when it’s over, you share a feast! If you’re looking for a singular experience that represents the unique, beating heart of Lao culture — in all of its warmth, graciousness, and love of good food — it’s probably this one.
The Spirit Of Baci
Although the ceremony itself is uniquely Lao, I think that the spirit of Baci is familiar to many people all over the world.
During the “Help In Your Own Way” Giveaway, I watched you reach out to these students and their teachers. Each time one of you donated some money, an old camera or a phone, or even forwarded the link to your friends, it was a wish for the good luck and happiness of people who you had never met before — half a world away.
The quality and depth of your thoughtfulness is apparent: Working together, you and I were able to raise over $6,000 of cash and donated items for these students. In real terms, that means that we provided one year’s worth of fast internet service — for both groups — giving hundreds of students access to the wider world and to educational materials that are otherwise unavailable in Laos.
We set up a small Computer Lab for Village Science at the Luang Prabang Provincial Library with our donated laptops and networking equipment. We gave smartphones to help the teachers and staff. We gave the students some excellent digital cameras so they could learn photography while documenting their daily lives. And thanks to Twitter and Facebook, many thousands of people like you were exposed to these worthwhile groups — and also encouraged to find ways to help others beyond this specific project.
How awesome is that?!?
I was touched by the efforts of donors like Heidi S., Morgan T., and Pam and Chris B. who made sure their old computers arrived in time to make the trip to Laos. People like Chris M. who volunteered his services as an architect. Alex P. who, in the midst of his wedding preparations, made sure a box full of used smartphones got to us. Sara B. who took it upon herself to organize her own smartphone drive… and on and on.
Think about it this way — If I told you about someone who helped some of the poorest students on Earth gain access to information and knowledge, who donated the equipment and materials needed to teach them how to flourish with dignity in a global economy, and who spread the word to thousands of people about groups who are working to promote education, leadership, literacy, and science…. You’d probably think “What an amazing person!”, right?
If you are a reader of Veritrope.com then, collectively, you are that someone. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for making this project such an incredible success.
Our Wonderful Sponsors
The generosity of our sponsors was equally humbling. Let me tell you this: The individuals that I’ve met from each of these companies are remarkable and, since I already know that you like supporting good people, you should remember to give them as much of your business as humanly possible:
- By the end of the ceremony, the dozens of strings around each wrist make it look like you’re wearing white terry-cloth wristbands from the 1970’s or, in my case due to prodigious arm hair, like a golden retriever is being held hostage. [↩]